Balancing the Fast Pace of Technology with the Slow Pace of an Installation Project

Building a new home may take a few months. It may take a year (and sometimes even longer). In the fast-paced world of technology, a lot can change in a year. Some of these things we can predict and some we cannot.
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Building a new home may take a few months. It may take a year (and sometimes even longer). In the fast-paced world of technology, a lot can change in a year. Some of these things we can predict and some we cannot.

Is it possible to balance the pace of technology with the pace of the build?

Concern: Keeping Equipment Current. A few years back we designed a system for a client who wanted keypads in 12 zones of his 8,000-square-foot house. Being a large house containing a large family (six kids in total), an intercom was the client's main request. Their secondary request was front and side door cameras and a cable modulation system, as they did not want a box at each TV location. They did not want the expense of a Crestron system, so we proposed Sony's Home Share system (2008's Home Share, not the wireless audio version they later used the name for). It had everything the client desired, and we had just returned from the annual Sony line show where we discussed this project with the engineers. The client signed on and we began the project.

Less than a year later, Sony discontinued the product.

This happened just as we were finishing the system. We were able to get all parts, and Sony did answer the phone when we needed tech support. This project went from a progressive up-and-coming system to a discontinued system. How do you tell your client that? (Maybe wait a year?)

Now, less than five years later, we are unable to add on to the system, and eventually we will have to move our client to a different system.

Concern: Is There Such a Thing as Future-Proofing? What wires do you run today if you are “future-proofing” a new build for tomorrow? Has your structured wiring changed over the last three years?

We've evolved from Cat-5 to Cat-5e and then to Cat-6. Yes, we all know that Cat-6 is better, but with the advent of HDbaseT, isn't Cat-5 good enough again? Do you run coax to all of your TV locations? There was a time when it seemed as if coax would be the way to run HD (with baluns). Today, that does not seem the case.

Maybe two years ago you ran a shielded Cat-6 to give your customer gigabit Ethernet down the road, but now you're using that wire for HDbaseT. This technology didn't even exist back then. So do we stop with Cat cable or do we run fiber just in case?

These are questions we must be asking ourselves on a quarterly basis (if not more often). Things are changing faster than ever in our industry, and we need to keep up.

Concern: Price Erosion. Products continue to get better and (mostly) get cheaper. When I quote a new-build system, I never include TVs. I request that the client give me the opportunity to bid on the video portion later (and explain to them that we can warranty the entire system if TVs are from us.) It would be unfair to request a deposit for a TV that won't be installed for months because I can almost guarantee the price will drop. Most clients appreciate this and purchase sets closer to move in time. However, this has lost me a TV sale from time to time.

HDMI distribution and switching is another prime example. This technology is still in its infancy, as far as I am concerned. If you've been watching pricing, you'll probably agree. An 8x8 HDMI matrix switcher a year ago was close to $10,000. Today, you can get a similar unit for almost half the cost, and it's better because it is utilizing HDbaseT technology.

Ever receive an “intro deal” on the unit and then before it is installed a new/better unit came out? What do you do? Do you replace it? Tell the client?

Being a cutting-edge company that cares about its clients can be downright painful. It can also be cost-prohibitive. One must learn to balance the needs/desires of the client with the needs of the project and the timeline of the build itself. This certainly sounds easier in theory than in practice.

How do you deal with the rapid pace of technology over the life a new-build process? Tell me in the comments section below.

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Heather L. Sidorowicz is project manager/designer for Southtown Audio Video in Hamburg, NY.

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